You don’t have to want to lose weight, be focused on health, want to save the planet or be an animal’s rights activist to appreciate the benefits of eating less meat. It’s simply cheaper. A can of black beans provides about 24 grams of protein but costs about a dollar, even less if you use dried beans. A four ounce serving of sirloin steak can cost from $6 to $8 a pound, so a four ounce serving ranges from $1.50 to $2.00. It’s about half the price.
Does going meatless provide any health benefits?
The answer is yes! First, meatless meals that have plant based protein provide the body with fiber. Soluble fiber feeds the microbes in your digestive tract that are beneficial. Those same microbes boost your immune system, affect your digestion and absorption of nutrients, affect your nervous system and brain and even help you lose weight. The insoluble fiber in plant protein sources also helps keep your elimination running smoothly, while slowing the absorption of carbohydrates to regulate blood sugar levels. Both can make you feel fuller, so you’ll eat fewer calories.
If you opt for a vegetarian lifestyle, you’ll lower your risk for several diseases.
You don’t have to be a vegan to get the benefits. Just cutting back on meat and becoming a flexitarian can help. Flexitarians simply eat less meat and focus meals more on vegetables and fruit. They may have a meatless Monday, Wednesday and/or Friday, but include meat in their diet the rest of the week. It can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and even live years longer than meat eaters.
Do you want to lose weight? It’s easier when you have a highly plant based diet.
Besides the economic, environmental and health benefits, plant based sources of protein are often more filling, so you eat less. They’re also often lower in calories in many cases. Studies of vegetarians show they have a lower BMI—body mass index—than those that ate meat on the average. The same studies also show vegetarians have a much lower waist-to-hip ratio, meaning less belly fat.
- Red meat takes longer sitting in your intestines. It can take as long as four days before you eliminate it, which may be why it’s linked to colorectal cancer. It’s high in cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Not all plant based proteins are complete. In order to get a complete protein with all the amino acids our body can’t make, you have to combine them or eat several types throughout the day. It’s easy. Peanut butter on whole grain bread is one example, just as black beans and rice is.
- You don’t have to opt for fancy vegetarian foods that cost extra, although I do love cashew burgers that have their own unique taste that’s nothing like meat. Cheap simple vegetarian options are available.
- Toss nuts and red beans in your salad or include meat in your meal, but make the amount you use smaller. Combine leftover meat that’s a serving or less with meatless options if you need more protein. Chop it up and use it for flavor, rather than the main source of protein.
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